No one can predict for certain what will be the hardest years of your life because no one knows what calamities might befall you. Nonetheless, there are plenty of studies that tell us most people face certain obstacles in life that all tend to happen at certain times.
We are sure you’ve heard of the mid-life crisis, or perhaps teenage angst, or those trying times in early adulthood when people need to grow up, get a job, and take responsibility for themselves. Then there are the vagaries of old age.
The specter of debilitating arthritis, incurable diseases, knowing the Grim Reaper is checking Google Maps to find out how to get to your house.
Starting with the easiest years.
There can be no doubt that the easiest years of life are those just after you are born. We can’t call these your hard years as there isn’t really a sense of YOU. You are developing a sense of self, or an ego. We won’t argue with psychologists, however, that suffering trauma as a young child might have an effect on the development of that child.
Some kids are beaten badly by their parents even as infants, and studies show that beaten children are more likely to develop mental health problems. This might be anxiety, depression, inability to empathize with others or they might be more likely to abuse drugs.
If you’ve seen our serial killer shows, you’ll know many of those crazed killers grew up with violent parents. However, as we said, as you haven’t quite developed a sense of you, these years are still easy-sailing. When the ego gets going, so do your problems. That’s when the trauma kicks in.
That said, when you truly know yourself, accept who you are, and even accept your mortality, life can become quite easy. That’s why a lot of people say life gets easier once you get out of the middle-age years.
As one person writes on his blog, “I am closing in on 71, though I am told I do not look it. I certainly don’t feel it. I am one that believes in the importance in continuous learning and trying lots of new things. You are never too late to start. I started writing this blog at 64.”
Getting old gracefully really depends on what you’ve set up for yourself and also includes a lot of luck. If you’re broke, without friends, have no hobbies or even ambitions, then old age can be a drag. You might find yourself a grumpy old person in a home next to a Grampa Simpson-like neighbor.
Listen to the wise words of American novelist, Henry Miller, who started writing late and wrote essays on living a meaningful life when he was in old age. Miller once said, “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
If you kept fit throughout life, especially the middle years, stayed curious and kept learning, saved a bit of cash, old age can be far easier than those years when you never stopped needing things and every day was a fight for survival. Hopefully, you’ll be one of those old folks that tells tales of a full life, and not through a machine connected to your once-cancerous neck.
Now we get to the harder years. The teenage years.
Teens may gripe a lot about life, but anyone who has been through those years knows they are generally easier than what’s coming, i.e. taking full responsibility for yourself. The problem with these years is they start with you trying to deal with the pecking order and finish with teens trying to deal with the transition to become adults.
It all depends on how you grow up. It’s no fun being poor as a teen and dealing with kids at school bullying you for it. One day, if you hold in there, you will have the power to become who you want, but teens generally are not able to escape whatever reality they know. These are the years that bad parenting really hurts, when some kids run away from home, when they are old enough and have enough awareness to realize things are not right at home.
For these teens life is a minefield, and we can see that in suicide rates. Young kids generally don’t take their own lives, but then in the teens the rate gets much higher. Kids have to deal with life, and deal with who they are. Still, the teen years show easily the lowest suicide rate for all stages of a life after pre-teen, in the USA at least.
Most kids, after all, don’t deal with daily beatings and abuse at home. Even kids with ‘caring’ parents can get stressed by parents’ expectations. Spoiled kids on the other hand may think they have it easy, but things will get hard in adulthood for someone who has always got what they wanted.
They are tricky years, but in the end, someone generally has your back. One teen girl said, “Social status matters so much today, and it’s all about how you handle yourself on social media.”
So, yes, you’ll have to fight through pecking orders, traverse the minefield of other kids and their taunts, but most kids, generally all kids, face this without insurmountable problems. You’ll also see your body has changed, and those hormonal shifts can bring pimples to your face and put you in bad moods.
You’ll be nervous no doubt about a first kiss, about making love, about becoming a man or a woman, but again, everyone has to go through this and generally these fears are easily overcome. Enjoy it while you can, because life is going to get harder.
The next stage is from the age of around 30-45.
You’re are not yet middle-aged, but certainly are over your growing pains. These are the years when you’ll likely find a career path, when you might get married and have children of your own, when you might get divorced, when, if you had a bad childhood, you might come to terms with that. It’s also the age things might fall apart.
When you watch your friends succeed. When you are inundated with photos on Facebook showing perfect happy marriages, your long-lost buddies travelling the globe, them sporting the best new clothes and driving flashy cars. You’re still wondering where everyone went, downing a Xanax and vodka in your one-bedroom flat listening to 90s music while measuring your receding hairline.
This can be a trying time. One thing for you now to know is you must move on. It’s time to leave the cocoon of youth and become a butterfly. So, what if you didn’t get married or don’t have the best job in the world. Don’t get down looking at how others live, you must change yourself. You are not too old to start something new.
If you don’t have kids, see that as a reason to do all the things people with kids cannot do. Ok, so your school buddy is rich, but he works long hours at an office in the rat race. Is that always a good thing? Do nice cars make people happy? You’ll find the answer is no.
Surviving these years is all about accepting change, accepting the loss of youth, and adapting to your future. Sure, these years are hard because many people just can’t cope with this. On the other hand, people may be stuck in an unhappy marriage or a job they hate – they won’t always admit that.
That’s no reason to roll over and hit the Prozac as many people do during this stage of life. It’s reason to dig in and make some changes. It’s the time you embrace the adage, “Carpe Diem”, “Seize the Day.”
The next stage is what we might call middle-age, from 45-60.
Maybe you didn’t make those good decisions we just talked about; you just stayed in the bad job, the terrible marriage; you kept hitting the booze and let yourself go physically. These are the years when most people take their own lives. It all depends on how you set this time up.
If you lived an unhealthy life and didn’t take care of yourself these are also the years you can expect to see some results related to that insalubrious living. Bad knees, replaced hips, off the chart cholesterol, blood sugar in the red, missing teeth and a lower back that can’t support you without an unfashionable brace.
You are also at that stage where you will have to accept you are entering into the twilight years. That doesn’t mean you can’t run marathons, but it might mean slowing down. Yep, we’ve all heard of the guys that buy Harley Davidson motorcycles during this stage of life, not knowing how to adapt to these years.
Psychologists tell us it’s during this stage we face “Generativity” or “Stagnation”. The former means giving, teaching others, even creating works of art or business manuals that might teach others. You have a lot to give, and now you are less selfish, work for the betterment of the majority.
Stagnation means just that, getting to this stage and not contributing anything to anyone. Feeling worthless or irrelevant. Lots of people turn to therapy at this stage in their lives. Our advice is to try not to become so self-absorbed. You can’t stop this passing of time.
Hair transplants or fake breasts or new cars are temporary fixes, but the roots of your soul will still be infused with discontent. You have to give out, not give up; focus not only on YOU, but how you can make other people’s lives better.
The hardest part of being alive?
Well, we are told that it is the twenties, or perhaps the period between the very late teens and the early thirties. This period doesn’t have the highest suicide rate, but the 20s can be a very testing time. Most people are thrown out of the nest and are told to literally get a life.
They have the burden of responsibility. While many studies suggest the university years can be easy, let’s remember some people don’t go to university. Those that do will likely graduate in their early twenties anyways. Psychology Today writes, “What seems bewildering or insurmountable when we are twenty is usually much less threatening when we are forty and may be a breeze when we are sixty. I am talking about the heart, mind, and spirit – not the body.”
These are the years you have to fight, and you’ll get little respect from others. You are too old to be mollycoddled by your parents, but embarrassingly you can’t quite stop needing their help. You’re like a badly-made grown-up, on the outside things look normal but on the inside you don’t function properly yet.
You’ve still got nagging parents; you’ve got debt, you have little self-control, and because of that you’re likely to do many stupid things on many occasions. You are just not fully-formed, at least your brain isn’t. You have freedom, but you don’t know how to handle it.
Studies have shown that when older people were asked what stage of life was the hardest and most said the 20s, a stage they really wouldn’t want to go through again if by some miracle it was possible. We guess for other wild animals, this is the stage when the young ones have to fend for themselves.
They are just not very good at it yet. Few people are masters of anything in their twenties, even if they deny it. The twenties are also a time of big egos, which in turn can lead to hubris and depression in the thirties, when they discover their brilliance wasn’t a reality.
You’ll need good support networks.
You’ll need self-control lest your freedom backfires on you. Reign-in your powers and harness your strengths. You are Spiderman before he can use his superpowers correctly. It helps to meditate a bit on who you are and what you want in life, and talk to others about that.
Now’s the time those mid-lifers should be doing what they are supposed to be doing and giving back; helping you out, or even writing the books or blogs that lessen your confusion and pain.